Sunday, it was easy to see which team was Missouri Valley Conference royalty in women’s basketball and which team was the up-and-comers in the conference championship game.
Wichita State secured its second consecutive conference tournament title, routing Drake 73-49 at Family Arena and earning the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA women’s tournament.
The second-seeded Shockers (26-6) had four players in double figures. They forced the fifth-seeded Bulldogs into 22 turnovers and built a double-digit lead in the final eight minutes of the first half and never looked back.
Wichita State led 22-20 with 8 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first half before closing with a 23-8 run to lead 45-28 at the break.
The Shockers limited Drake to 19-for-49 shooting (39 percent) and just four of 20 (20 percent) from 3-point range. The Bulldogs also made just seven of 15 from the free throw line.
“Our team was on a mission today,” Wichita State coach Jody Adams said. “This is something you dream about. It’s something you want to play in as a kid. I think our intensity on defense was the difference. We never let them get comfortable on offense.”
Junior Alex Harden, who was selected as the conference tournament outstanding player for the second consecutive season, and junior Jamillah Bonner scored 21 points each. Freshman Alie Decker had 12 points and senior Michelle Price added 11 points and nine rebounds. Harden scored 13 of her points in the first half, when her team seized control of the game. She was nine for 19 from the floor, handed out eight assists and had three steals.
Drake (17-15) upset top-seeded Indiana State on Saturday but ran out of magic against the Shockers. Freshman Lizzy Wendell scored 20 points for the Bulldogs and junior Kyndal Clark had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The duo, however, received little help as the rest of the team combined for just 14 points.
“We had some moments we didn’t like and some moments we liked,” Drake coach Jenni Baranczyk said. “This tournament proved we are going in the right direction and doing it the right way. We won some big games for a team with not much depth and not much size, but it caught up with us today. Wichita State is a great team.”
Sunday was the third meeting between the two teams, with the Shockers winning the first two. Wichita State was victorious at home 88-55 on Jan. 20 and in Des Moines 70-61 on Feb. 14. The teams were also Nos. 1 and No. 2 in scoring in the conference with the Bulldogs averaging 72.2 points a game and Wichita State 71.
On defense, the Shockers were tops, holding teams to 57.9 points a game. Drake was No. 9 allowing 72.9 points.
“We stayed strong as a team throughout the game,” Wendell said. “We didn’t lose our self pride. We’ll continue to get better.”